Tucked away from the chaos and the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu is a unique non-profit organisation known as Maiti Nepal. Officially founded in 1993 by a handful of ambitious professionals; teachers, journalists and social workers alike, Maiti Nepal was born as a means to protect Nepali girls and women from the dangers of human trafficking.
My Hands On Development group was privileged with the opportunity to tour the organisation and learn more about the difference Maiti Nepal has made on the lives of thousands of girls and women.
In a presentation, our tour group was exposed to some astounding facts. We discovered that each year Maiti Nepal intercepts and provides support to around 5000 Nepalese women and girls. Girls who are as young as you don’t want to imagine, are exposed to not just trafficking, but also domestic violence, child prostitution, child labour and various forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
We found out through the tour that the activities of Maiti Nepal are divided into two different categories: Preventative and curative. Preventative measures include awareness and advocacy, counselling, and education through the Teressa Academy (the school that Maiti Nepal runs). Measures such as rehabilitation and reintegration, prosecution and legal aid, rescue and hospice are all identified as curative. In a well thought out program, Maiti Nepal has currently established 14 transit homes, 3 prevention homes available to women who are at risk of being trafficked, 2 women rehabilitation homes, 2 hospices and 1 child protection centre. We were given a guided tourism experience of the grounds in Kathmandu and see some of the women whose lives have been completely turned around thanks to the involvement and aid of Maiti Nepal.
We learned that women stay in the reach of Maiti Nepal until they feel that they are self-sustainable. An overarching theme of this trip has been of empowerment. As Stephanie Woollard, founder of Seven Women and Hands on Development Tours, has continually said:
“It is about giving a hand up, not a hand out. It is about empowerment and teaching life skills, not about giving welfare.”
I wanted to learn more about Maiti Nepal, so I took a further glance at their website and I found an interesting piece that I wanted to share:
‘Maiti’ denotes a girl’s family name of which she was born into. The word has a sentimental value especially for a married Nepali woman. She then solely belongs to her husband and his family forever. However, Maiti Nepal is a home to all women and girls regardless of being married or not. A safe haven for those whose rights are exploited, violated and neglected by society.’
And that’s exactly what Maiti Nepal felt like to me – a safe haven, or even an oasis. As we strolled through the grounds I immediately felt a sense of calm - what a contrast to the bustling streets of Kathmandu! The feeling of community here is genuine and something I’m grateful for experiencing, thanks to the Hands on Development tour.
The following was written by a Hands on Development tour participant, Miranda Osman